Glasgow 2014: Austin challenges Brownlee brothers

Marc Austin wants to turn professional. Picture: JP
Marc Austin wants to turn professional. Picture: JP
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THE presence of the Brownlee brothers could severely limit Scottish triathlete Marc Austin’s hopes of finishing among the medals at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. THE presence of the Brownlee brothers could severely limit Scottish triathlete Marc Austin’s hopes of finishing among the medals at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Yet the upbeat 20-year-old Stirling University student is anything but begrudging of the fact that English siblings Alistair and Jonathan, who claimed gold and bronze respectively at the London Olympics, are expected to take two of the three top places at Hamilton’s Strathclyde Park next month.

The bravado of the Brownlees brought triathlon to a whole new British audience two years ago. They added a hipster element to a sport that requires competitors to complete a 1,500-metre open-water swim, then switch to a 40-kilometre road cycle and finish up with 10-kilometre run. Austin, who has been competing for almost a decade, has never beaten the pair – “not many people have” – but delights in being able to join them, after successfully progressing from the junior ranks.

“People know them here, and the rest of the world. It’s great to see two brothers who are two ordinary guys… they don’t come across as superstar athletes when they speak. They’re good ambassadors for the sport. And I like racing them. They make it really aggressive and exciting so I’m looking forward to taking them on. They don’t hold back. In the past, people would sit in on the bike and save it for the run. They give it everything. They could sit back and win it on the run but they don’t want to do that. They race as hard and aggressively as they can.

“I’ve done a bit of training with them and we get on really well. They can be intimidating in a race but they do look out for us as juniors. When you’re trying to come through, you make mistakes and they appreciate that.”

Scarily for Austin, he has far more to worry about in the Lanarkshire loch and its environs than the celebrity siblings.

“The Aussie team is strong. The New Zealand team is strong. There’s a really strong South African, Richard Murray, who’s not just a strong swimmer but also a really quick runner.

“If he’s in the race, it will be hard to beat him. I’d love to get a medal. I don’t know how realistic that is. But that’s what I’m going to try to do.”

Austin has just completed third-year maths at Stirling, a university he chose specifically because it was a perfect location for triathletes. He hopes the sport will become his professional career.

Making a splash next month could help, and that is where he believes familiarity could prove crucial. “It’s a bit different for the Games but I have raced at Strathclyde Park twice previously,” he says, downplaying the algae issues in the murky loch. “I went through two weeks ago to do a recce and we did another one this week. It’s definitely a benefit of being in Glasgow, being able to do that. You have to make the most of it by getting some sessions in there and seeing what the corners are like.”

An undoubted appeal of triathlon is the no-holds-barred jostling between competitors at the start of the swim. With fewer participants in the Commonwealth Games, Austin predicts the elbows to the face won’t be as frequent. He hopes.

“It’s a bit mental but there’s less people at the Commonwealths. There’ll still be a scrum but not what you’d have at a World Series with 83 on the line. It can get a bit hectic there. I just try to keep to myself and avoid it. That’s the best way. You have to just swim and not worry about other people.”

Including blokes by the name of Brownlee.